(Photo: UMNS/Paul Jeffrey)
An expert on United Methodist Church policy says that the wave of pro-gay resolutions from regional conferences will not change the mainline denomination's position on homosexuality.
John Lomperis, director of the United Methodist program at The Institute on Religion and Democracy, told The Christian Post that efforts over the summer will have little impact.
"I expect it may do a little to energize and encourage UMC activists wanting the next General Conference to disavow biblical standards for sexual self-control," said Lomperis. "But even activists writing such resolutions increasingly realize that whatever wave of momentum they may be able to generate will crash against a brick wall at the next General Conference."
He also told CP such resolutions, including three that were passed in Annual Conference this summer, are supported by "a demonstrably shrinking minority."
"Many of the resolutions passed this year suggest an increasing radicalism, and perhaps a 'sore loser' mentality, among this shrinking, losing minority," said Lomperis. "The 'open bathrooms' resolution in the Desert Southwest Conference…indicates a willingness to prioritize lefty political correctness over even the safety of women and children in church buildings."
According to the United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline, homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching" and non-celibate homosexuals cannot be ordained.
The Book of Discipline further states that UMC clergy cannot perform same-sex unions and defines marriage as being between one man and one woman.
While at times hotly debated, the Book of Discipline's language regarding homosexuality has survived efforts to change it, including most recently in 2012.
At the 2012 UMC General Conference in Tampa, Fla., an "agree to disagree" amendment was introduced by the Rev. Adam Hamilton of Leawood, Kan., and the Rev. Mike Slaughter of Tipp City, Ohio.
The failed amendment would have replaced the "incompatible" statement with language acknowledging differing opinions on the matter within the UMC.
Resolutions and Affirmations
Since the 2012 General Conference, there have been several resolutions passed at regional conferences in the United States against the UMC's position on homosexuality and marriage. In the summer after the Tampa General Conference, 15 regional conferences passed resolutions in support of same-sex marriage.
Others said they would express support for the "Statement of Gospel Obedience," a document that declares the UMC to be in error for its position against homosexuality.
This year, the denomination included its share of pro-gay activism at the regional conference level, including the Desert Southwest Conference passing a "marriage equality" resolution last month.
"RESOLVED that the Desert Southwest Annual Conference and the United Methodist Churches of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference make a public statement supporting and upholding Marriage Equality," reads the resolution in part. "…[we] will support our clergy who take the bold and faithful stand to minister to all equally and include all in the life of the church, which includes but is not limited to, conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies where it is civically legal to do so. Furthermore, several regional conferences in the Western Jurisdiction reaffirmed their support for the "Statement of Gospel Obedience."
The 'Shrinking Minority'
Despite the many actions across the American regional conferences, Lomperis told CP that they were the actions of a "shrinking minority" in the UMC.
Lomperis pointed to the growth of the UMC in Africa, whose delegates overwhelmingly voted against the "agree to disagree" resolution in Tampa last year.
"Our global denomination is growing overseas, where members are generally orthodox. Non-American delegates are getting close to having a majority at General Conference," said Lomperis. "Among American United Methodists, the areas that have most enthusiastically embraced the sexual revolution are the most rapidly declining in membership and consequent influence, while our growing churches tend to be biblically faithful."